The Broadstairs campus of Canterbury Christ Church University is home to just 1000 students. The Learning Centre at this campus is home to an excellent range of facilities and resources. The Open Access Area provides PCs with internet and software, printing, scanning and photocopying devices, group study rooms, IT training rooms and multi-media viewing facilities. This area is used extensively by students from all years, across all subjects, at all times of the day.
The library and quiet study area, on the other hand, is rarely used. A head count taken on the 7 November to establish how many students were present at particular times revealed the following statistics:
10am – 2 students
12noon – 8 students
2pm – 9 students
4pm – 6 students
This translates as less than 3% of students visiting the library each day. Those who were using it were from all years, studying all subjects, and were both male and female.
Our research has shown students are disappointed with the stock of books, CDs, DVDs and other items available for loan. They also find it a bland, uninspiring and an environment that is not enticing. They seemed unaware of the fact it is open seven days a week and that any item from any CCCU library is able to be delivered to the Broadstairs campus in 2-5 days.
Students claimed a lack of decent books was one of the main issues, the lack of Apple Macs and a lack of space was also mentioned by some of the international students. New students also found the fact that the entrance to the library is tucked away round a corner intimidating. Some students claimed they didn’t use the library because it is far away at the top of the building, yet this doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Open Access Area.
Much of the criticism towards the Broadstairs campus library is in comparison to Augustine House, the library at the Canterbury campus. Students find this exciting, inspiring and well stocked. “There is a real vibe there,” claimed one student, who frequents both libraries on a regular basis.
We feel that students who do use the library regularly would feel more pride in their university, feel they are getting more for their tuition fees and, above all else, will perform better in their work.
The Creative Challenge
We would like you to find a way to entice students into the library, make it an appealing, exciting and motivating place to stay and study, and to create a vibe that draws students in and makes them want to use the library much more regularly.
We want you as a designer to find a solution that reaches people on an emotional level, not just ‘pretty the place up’. We want our students to be proud of their library in the same way as Canterbury students are proud of Augustine House. As this area is a place of quiet study we need you to not only touch the heart of the community with your solutions, but touch the heart of the individual student. We want the space to speak to them.
We want to ensure students from all years and all subjects are using this area. The age range of our students is wide (27% are 18-20, 29% are 21-29, 44% are 30+). The courses studied here are Business Management, Music Production, Digital Media, Photography, Childhood Studies and Policing. Nearly 10% of our students are not from England, the majority of these students coming from the EU. Half our students are also studying part time. It is important to reflect all the potential students when thinking of how to make the library more appealing.
The location, size and stock of the library cannot be changed. How these are used and presented can be. The budget is limited, but we feel this is a problem that can be solved by lateral thinking and creative invention, not by throwing money at it. We understand that it is not possible to recreate Augustine House without a budget of millions and 12,000 sq ft to play with. We do not want this. We want something that is uniquely Broadstairs.
The students we spoke to that did use the library regularly said it was essential to have a silent place to study, and that the library provided this. It is important not to alienate those who want to use the space for this purpose, rather to increase their numbers.
We suggested several schemes that might encourage more students into the library, e.g. a ‘Living Book Program’ where you can ‘check-out’ an author/subject expert for a one-to-one conversation, a ‘library scavenger hunt’ to increase familiarity with the library and ‘Q and A’ events with authors/subject experts. The vast majority of the students asked were not interested in them, and dismissed them as gimmicks. The idea of a weekly book recommendation from either students or lecturers was thought of as a better idea, but still didn’t appear to excite. The students are here to study, and seem primarily concerned with facilities that enable them to do this in the best way. It is important not to lose sight of the primary function of the space.
We would like you to present us with your solutions by 5 December 2011.